So, I’m trying to figure out how much the Marco Belinelli signing helps the Sixers. His shooting in his first game with us was terrific, but I nevertheless am extremely skeptical of the proposition that he will significantly improve the team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not outraged about it or anything, we had an open roster spot, Belli is an NBA player at a position of need, why not go ahead and sign him? But I don’t really see much expected benefit either. The argument for Belli goes something like this:
- The Sixers have a tremendous starting lineup but a very poor bench that drags the team down.
- In truth we have some solid bench players in Amir, TJ, and Booker, but the problem is, none of those players is a volume three-point shooter, and none of them can really create his own shot consistently.
- Our backup wings do not solve the problem as a) they are not good three-point shooters, b) they can’t create for themselves or others, c) they are not very good defenders, and as a consequence d) they are just not very good players at this point in their careers. I refer here to TLC, Justin Anderson, and Jerryd Bayless.
- So let’s add a wing who is a) a fine shooter who can create some offense and b) won’t cost us any assets -- hey, how about Marco Belinelli, who has a championship ring for that season he shot 43% from three for the Spurs?!
So far, so good. We really do have a serious problem in terms of backups at the 2 and 3. Although GM Bryan Colangelo has been much criticized for not shoring up this weakness in the offseason, I think that criticism is unfair. Recall that heading into the regular season we had a strong starting wing pair of JJ and Covington, backed up by the following:
1) Markelle Fultz
2) Jerryd Bayless
4) Justin Anderson
5) Furkan Korkmaz
6) Nik Stauskas
In addition the roster had a couple of exciting young players who were likely to log at least some, and possibly many, minutes at the 3:
A) Ben Simmons
B) Dario Saric
Indeed though positions are fluid these days, it’s my impression that Ben and Dario have, in fact, each played non-trivial amounts of small forward this year.
Remember, all we needed was about 16 minutes a night to back up Cov and 20 to back up JJ. Plus, of course, deep depth to address injuries and such. Even if Markelle was being eased in at 24 minutes a game, and even if we assumed that Ben Simmons logged zero frontcourt minutes, that still left only 12 wing minutes to cover using whoever stepped up from the Furkan-TLC-JA-Bayless-Nik group. Each of these players had plenty of doubters, but almost no fans I know of thought none of these guys would be available and good enough to deliver 12 decent minutes! It really did seem as though we were solid as far as bench wings went, and likely more than solid, given Fultz’s impressive pedigree and strong, if limited, Summer League play.
Well, we all know what happened. Markelle’s shot has vanished for the moment, so he can’t be used at this point. Furkan went out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. Bayless started out as an OK-not-great backup but has re-injured his wrist and is now playing horribly. Nik lost the coach’s confidence and was benched, then traded. TLC has shown flashes but overall has played porrly. Anderson has been more impressive than TLC but still hasn’t risen to the level of a good backup (though I think he’s getting close!), and moreover has missed a lot of time with injury. The Markelle situation was impossible to predict, in my humble opinion, and frankly without that issue we’d be fine even if everything else that’s gone wrong had done so. And if we’d gotten lucky with just one of the other five guys, we’d be fine even with the Markelle issue. So I really can’t blame the Sixers brass for not addressing this in the offseason; I thought, and I think almost all fans thought, that we had a sufficient number of irons in the fire at backup wing. People were alot more worried about our bigs, what with Joel a huge injury risk, Amir perceived as one too, Jah terrible, and Richaun and Dario unproven.
But all that stuff did happen. And so we turn to Marco Belinelli, the bench’s savior. But there seems to me to be one major problem. As best I can tell Marco Belinelli is an absolutely terrible NBA player. In Part 2 of this article, I will explain why I think that. (Spoiler alert: his teams tend to play horribly whenever he is on the floor, and much better when he is off.) In Part 3, I will address questions of fit and roster construction that some argue could nevertheless justify a meaningful role for Belinelli over the rest of this season.